Sunday, July 15, 2018

Gluten Free in Bologna and Venice

After spending 7 nights in Rome, and 5 nights in Florence, we headed to Venice, with a quick stop in Bologna for lunch and some sightseeing.  

In Bologna, we had lunch at Fiordaliso, a 100% gluten free restaurant, pizzeria, coffee bar, and confectionery. I posted all menu photos from Fiordaliso in my Facebook group Gluten Free Italy.

We all loved their bread service, and it was my aunt's favorite gluten free bread in Italy. Fiordaliso offers a pizza crust with charcoal dough, so I assume that the darker bread in the basket contained charcoal.

We were also really impressed with the complimentary amuse-bouche we received, which was a crostini on top of broccoli puree with balsamic reduction, a a roasted tomato, and some type of Italian meat.

I wanted to try local dishes while we were in Bologna, so I ordered the house made tortellini in capon broth. My daughters, who ordered the same dish, added cheese to their broth, but I thought it was flavorful enough on its own, and the tortellini were incredibly delicious.

I loved my husband's entree as much as my own. He chose the tortellini with ham in a cream sauce, which was one of my favorite pasta dishes in Italy. After trying one bite, I told him we needed to order a second plate, but he let me eat as much as I wanted, because he always ends up finishing our daughters' meals.

My uncle had the house made tagliatelle alla bolognese, and my aunt ordered salmon with sides of grilled seasonal vegetables and roasted potatoes.

For dessert, I chose a selection of small pastries, and my daughters shared a slice of chocolate cake.

Everything we tried at Fiordaliso was delicious, and I would be dining there at least once a week if we lived in Bologna. After checking out San Petronio Basilica and the leaning towers in Bologna, we met our driver from Chianti Drivers to finish our journey to Venice.

After checking in to our Airbnb, we walked to MEA Libera Tutti, a small gluten free shop in Venice.

The gentleman I spoke to on both visits had some great restaurant and product recommendations for me. I was given a printed list of celiac safe restaurants, which included Ae Oke Zattere (recommended for lasagna), Vecia Cavana, Ristobar San Palo (I was told they have profiteroles and are only open for lunch), Al Tintoretto, and Al Giardinetto da Severino. For gelato, he recommended Grom and Nico Zattere (Gelateria Nico), which are both certified by the AIC (Italian Celiac Association).

I am so glad I bought the Senza Pensieri chocolate and apricot buranellini cookies that were recommended to me. I saw these Venetian cookies in all of the bakeries my gluten-eating family stopped in. They are individually wrapped, so I could stick a few in my purse, just in case I got hungry on our tours.

I also bought Schar soft waffles. They made an easy breakfast with some fruit, because they do not need to be heated up, and I liked that they were not overly sweet. They reminded me a lot of the waffle cookies my grandmother used to make, minus the powdered sugar she covered them with. Before we left Venice, I checked online to see if I could buy these waffles in the United States. While on Schar's website, I noticed that they contain gluten free wheat starch, an ingredient that can be controversial in the gluten free community. I had no ill effects from eating them, but I doubt I would ever purchase them again. You can read more about gluten free wheat starch here.

The last product I purchased at MEA Libera Tutti was a bag of Amaretti Morbidi alla Frutta. I love amaretti cookies, but this brand was a little sweet for me, and I prefer the variety I had without fruit at Vecia Cavana.

All of the restaurants we dined at in Italy were either 100% gluten free, or were certified by the AIC (Italian Celiac Association), with the exception of one gelateria we had gelato at in San Gimignano.

In Florence and Venice, we ate a lot of gelato at Grom, a 100% gluten free gelateria with locations throughout Italy.

In Venice, I finally tried one of their cones with chocolate and nuts, but found that I much prefer the plain ones.

I didn't realize until our last full day in Venice, that there was a Grom inside the train station, which was less than a 5 minute walk from our Airbnb. I indulged in one last Crema di Grom before we took a train back to Rome for our flight to Oakland the next day. Crema di Grom is a delicious pastry cream gelato with chocolate chips and pieces of corn biscotti.

I highly recommend the chocolate biscotti at Grom. I have a bag hidden in my kitchen at home that I am saving for a day when I just need something amazing with chocolate.

In the Venice train station, near the platforms, I also found a freezer with mini containers of Grom gelato, and cookie ice cream sandwiches, which I had not seen elsewhere on our trip. I would presume that the ice cream sandwiches are gluten free like everything else at Grom in Italy.

While walking to MEA Libera Tutti our first day in Venice, we stumbled upon Stickhouse, which sells artisan gelato on a stick.

The employee I spoke to confirmed that everything in the shop is 100% gluten free, but I was skeptical about eating gelato on a stick, so I did not try it until our second day in Venice.

Stickhouse has several dairy free options, including fruit sorbetto and chocolate, which seems to be common at gelaterias in Italy.

At Stickhouse, you can buy plain gelato on a stick, pre-dipped gelato selections that are available in the case, or you can customize your own.

Our last full day in Venice, I tried amaretto (almond cookie) gelato dipped in white chocolate, and rolled in pistachios. This combination might have been the best gelato I had in Italy. I loved it so much, I plan on tracking down the Stickhouse gelato shops in Naples and Milan next summer on our Mediterranean cruise.

My daughters and I loved the plain amaretto too. It was so smooth and creamy, with the most perfect almond flavor.

I also liked Stickhouse's pistachio, but on future visits, I would have a hard time getting anything else but the amaretto.

I also tried their yogurt with red fruits. If you like yogurt and berries, this is a great option.

The only dairy free sorbetto I tried in Italy was the raspberry on a stick at Stickhouse. You can buy flowery sticks with soft sugar decorations, or purchase them plain. I thought the raspberry sorbetto was very refreshing, and not overly sweet, but I prefer gelato with dairy.

In Rome, we purchased a box of gluten free Cornetto cones at a local grocery store. I used to like having an occasional Nutty Buddy pre-celiac, and these tasted exactly like the gluten-filled ones I remember. Cornetto cones are available in small shops all over Venice, and they are easy to find, because they are displayed on signs outside the stores.

If you don't like nuts, I found Schar gran cono panna & cacao in a local grocery store we stopped at in Venice. I really wish these products were sold in the United States.

Occasionally, it is nice to take a break from Italian food in Italy, so we decided to have lunch at Frary's, an AIC certified restaurant specializing in Middle Eastern and Greek cuisine. This is a great restaurant for people looking for vegetarian, vegan, and dairy free options.

I was given corn and rice cakes, while my family was served gluten-filled pita bread.

I opened the package of corn cakes to eat with my hummus, which was so delicious.

Our server recommended I try the falafel, which is described on the menu as spicy fried chickpea balls. I have never been a huge fan of falafel, but this was my favorite dish at Frary's. I ate each bite dipped in their incredible hummus.

My husband and I shared two entrees. Our favorite was the Moroccan chicken with rice, honey, and raisins. We both agreed that there seemed to be prunes instead of raisins in this dish, but whatever they were, they were good, so we had no complaints.

We also ordered shrimp with feta cheese and rice. I only ate two bites of this dish, because I much preferred the chicken, and I was not that hungry after eating my falafel and hummus.

My daughters ordered a gluten free dish I really wanted to try, the Iranian rice with chicken, pomegranate, and walnuts. Sadly, I couldn't talk my husband into sharing this entree with me. He has outgrown his childhood food allergies, but there are still several varieties of nuts that he will not eat. My daughters liked their meal, but I did not try it, because I do not eat any dishes that we do not request to be marked as gluten free when we order.

There were several other entrees that we were interested in, but they were not available the day we had lunch at Frary's, which I read can be an issue on the islands of Venice.

For dessert, my daughters and I shared cinnamon and ginger ice cream. I don't remember which flavor I liked better, but they were both good, though a tad icy. The dried flowers sprinkled on top were a nice touch for presentation, flavor, and texture.

The next day, we had lunch at Trattoria al Giardinetto da Severino, another AIC certified restaurant.

We dined outside in their beautiful garden. I was hesitant, because people can smoke outside, but we arrived when they first opened, so there were not that many people around is while we dined, and no one smoked.

Our server brought me gluten free bread shortly after we arrived. It was not housemade, but it was heated well.

For an appetizer, I ordered the shrimp with polenta. I liked, but did not love this dish, because I thought it was lacking something flavor-wise.

For an entree, I chose the steak with balsamic reduction. I really enjoyed this dish, though I wish my steak had been cooked just a little bit more. If you are interested, you can view the menu photos I took from Frary's and Trattoria al Giardinetto da Severino in my Facebook group Gluten Free Italy.

Our last night in Venice, we had dinner at Vecia Cavana, which ended up being our most expensive meal in Italy.

I had plenty of options to choose from on their menu for celiacs.

Our meal started with complimentary mimosas for the adults, and orange juice for our daughters.

The bread was not housemade, but it was nice to have the option along with some gluten free crackers that I saved for later.

Vecia Cavana's ravioli with butter and sage was incredible, and one of the best pasta dishes I had on our trip to Italy. I found myself withing that I had not ordered anything else, because I wanted a second bowl of pasta. I almost did not order the ravioli, because I rarely like savory dishes with ricotta, but it was delicious, and there was not too much filling.

I shared fried shrimp and calamari with my husband. I liked the zucchini it was served with, but overall, it was a little too salty for my taste.

I ordered two gluten free desserts to share with my family at Vecia Cavana.

Their tiramisu was good, but not great. I kept wanting to love the gluten free tiramisu I had in Italy, but that was not the case at any restaurant we ordered it at.

I am not a huge fan of wine, but I loved the moscato that was served with my second dessert, gluten free biscuits and sweet wine.

I was a little disappointed that I was served prepackaged cookies, but my family loved the amaretti, and I saved the buranellini cookies for later.

The best dessert we had at Vecia Cavana was actually a complimentary dessert - a housemade cookie topped with nuts and chocolate hazelnut spread. Even my daughters, who can be a little wary of desserts with nuts, enjoyed this one.

The adults in our party also received a complimentary glass of limoncello, that was way too strong for me.

Overall, we enjoyed the three days we spent in Venice, which has been on my bucket list for a long time.

I did print celiac restaurant cards in Italian before our trip, but I never had to use them. They were unnecessary, because the restaurants we dined at were either 100% gluten free, or certified by the Italian Celiac Association. I found the AIC app and the Find Me Gluten Free app to be super helpful as I researched safe places to eat. All of our servers spoke English, and the menus at the restaurants we dined at were in English, which helped make dining very stress free for me.

What are your favorite restaurants for gluten free dining in Bologna and Venice?


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